Ants Genome Sequenced for The First Time: Clue to Aging

The entire genome sequences of two different species of ant have been mapped for the first time, providing an insight into human aging and behaviour. Ants are extremely social creatures and their ability to survive depends on their community in a very similar way to humans. Whether they are workers, soldiers or queens, ants seem to be a perfect fit to study whether epigenetics influences behaviour and aging.

Epigenetics is the study of how genes are activated or deactivated in response to changes in conditions rather than changes to DNA sequences, and helps determine inherited changes in an organism’s traits or gene expression. NYU Langone Medical Center scientists collaborated with colleagues in Pennsylvania, Arizona and China starting in 2008 to study the epigenetic differences between Jerdon’s jumping ant and the Florida carpenter ant to link them to processes in other animals, including humans. After the project was completed, ants became the second family of social insects whose genome was sequenced, after the honey bee. The study, published in Science,focused on the role of epigenetics on longevity in ant colonies where the queens can live up to 10 times longer – several years – than worker ants, whose lifespan ranges between three weeks and a year. In comparing the Jerdon’s jumping ant to the Florida carpenter ant, a destructive pest in the southeastern United States, the scientists found that about 20% of their genes are unique, while about 33% are shared with humans. Reinberg said:

In studying the genomes of these two ants, we were fascinated by the different behaviours and different roles that the worker ants develop. Since every ant in the colony starts with the same genetic information, the different neuronal connections that specify the behaviour appropriate for each social rank must be controlled by epigenetic mechanisms. The findings could potentially help us learn more about the effect of epigenetics on brain function in humans.


When the jumping ant queen dies, workers in the small colony fight until only a few remain and become new queens, or gamergates, which live longer than worker ants.The scientists found that these replacement queens had an over-expression of proteins linked to longevity, including the enzyme telomerase. They also had a large amount of small RNAs, a type of genetic material that finesses gene expressions in humans other organisms.

Among carpenter ants, only the queen lays fertilised eggs and her death also spells the end of the colony. Under these ants’ far more sophisticated caste system and social organisation, non-reproductive ants belong to the major or minor workers’ caste. Major workers are tasked with protecting the colony, while minor workers search for food. The scientists said that epigenetics determine how their how their brains are wired differently for their particular tasks. Reinberg and his team found important differences in how genes functioning in the brain are expressed, thus helping explain the role of genes in influencing ant behaviour.

I’m really fascinated by this study. Imagine our intact genome have been mapped and we have technology to remove the aging strands of genome, we would be immortal. Seems a quantum leap to genetics.

[Credit: CosmosMagazine]

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About bruceleeeowe
An engineering student and independent researcher. I'm researching and studying quantum physics(field theories). Also searching for alien life.

3 Responses to Ants Genome Sequenced for The First Time: Clue to Aging

  1. Well, a recurring theme in science fiction is that even if we discover how to eliminate aging by genetic manipulation, there are always terrible side effects from doing that, such as a reproductive sterility or lack of emotions or some horror movie scenario where everyone turns into killer zombies or something after living a few centuries. Nature might have experimented with immortal mammel species and some biological limitation of that genotype might have made them extinct right off the bat. There are species of bushes that are apparently immortal, and several species of trees that live thousands of years, and also microscopic Hydra species, and a type of sea polyp that can reverse its aging and ‘youthen’ itself, but there might be some kind of biosystem snafus when you attempt to instill that factor in large mammel lifeforms like Humans.

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      Those adverse effects always detours around some accidental events which always allows the deterioration of DNA strands which is not desired. Which is why I’ve said that we have to map the intact genome. Once it is done, we would be able to depict the consequences of genetic tampering. Thusly, such types of unexpected mutation might not be possible unless done intentionally.

  2. Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

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